January 12, 2014

Sheldon Richman of Reason jumps the shark [Darleen Click]

“Support for freedom and independence, then, requires opposition to intellectual property.”

I won’t try to recap the whole case here, but I do want to answer a question that will occur to many advocates of liberty: How can someone who supports property rights in physical objects deny property rights in intellectual products, such as the useful application of scientific principles or patterns of words, musical tones, or colors?

It says a great deal of one’s argument to start out, in the second paragraph no less, with bad faith definitions.

No one, absolutely no one, copyrights “patterns of words, musical tones, or colors”. Diary of a Wimpy Kid contains words and wiggly hand-drawn lines, but it was the author Jeff Kinney who created them. Every music composer uses “tones”, but only Gershwin created Rhapsody in Blue.

If I’ve missed something, please let me know, no one has copyrighted “colors”. The closest are the trademarked Tiffany Blue or Barbi Pink. However, there are a lot of paintings, illustrations, photographs that are the product of their creators, using color as a medium for the creator.

In contrast, “rights” in ideas — patents and copyrights — were government monopoly grants having nothing in common with the notion of property at the heart of libertarianism. In fact, such artificial rights undermine genuine property by authorizing IP holders to enlist government power to stop other people from using their justly acquired resources and ideas. For example, if Jones (having committed no trespass) observes Smith’s invention or artistic creation, Jones could be legally stopped from using his own physical property in conjunction with ideas obtained through that observation. That sure looks as though IP bestows on Smith purported rights over Jones’s tangible property and even Jones himself. One might ask, Isn’t the idea Smith’s? But I can’t see how an idea in Jones’s mind can possibly be Smith’s, even if Smith had it first — unless Smith owns Jones, an unlibertarian notion indeed.

Richman is just as intellectually dishonest in this paragraphy; he conflates ideas, which are not eligible for patents or copyrights, with tangible, physical creations. Inventions, songs, novels, paintings, sculptures — what Richman is advocating would allow people to copy, then sell, the labor of others without any compensation.

Contemplate the inventions and works of art that were produced over millennia without patents or copyrights.

Sure, I can contemplate it. I can contemplate that artisans were sponsored and produced their work for private entities in a time where making knockoffs was close to impossible. The public certainly had little access to these private works when created. Yet, Richman argues we are to make every song, every novel, every invention public property the moment the *idea* takes tangible form.

Yeah, that’s gonna work.

Richman goes on to decry the age of the Robber Barons, making progressives everywhere swoon.

Without the combined influence of tariffs, patents, and railroad subsidies in creating the centralized corporate economy, there would not have been any large corporations even to attempt trusts in the first place. The corporate transformation of the economy in the late 19th century — made possible by the government’s role in railroad subsidies, protectionism, and patents — was a necessary precondition for the full-blown state capitalism of the 20th century.

Let’s repeat: Subsidies, protectionism and patents. One of these things is not like the others. Subsidies are the transfer of money from one private entity to another using government force. Protectionism is using government force to curtail what would be voluntary action in the market place. Patents are a limited time in which the government allows private property to remain under control of the creator. Granting an artist the exclusive right to his or her own work isn’t taking any property away from any other individual or business. It doesn’t interfere in any free market activity — others can deal with the artist or not. Is no Libertarian bothered a scenario based on what Richman advocates where a magazine — say Brides — goes out on the internet, copies all the images they need for a publication, and never compensates the artists because PUBLIC PROPERTY!?

Richman’s closing line is what I opened this post with. It is a leftist-progressive assertion, not “libertarian.” No “property rights” exist if intellectual property rights don’t:

“Patents and copyrights are the legal implementation of the base of all property rights: a man’s right to the product of his mind.”*

*Ayn Rand in 1967 saw the attacks on patents and named them for what they are: collectivist efforts to undermine private property.

Bravo, Sheldon! Here’s your useful idiot card.

Posted by Darleen @ 11:55am
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Comments (43)

  1. I agree that the creator should have the right to be the primary beneficiary of the work he actually produces, but that right should not outlast said creator.

    http://www.spiderrobinson.com/melancholyelephants.html

    Kind of a long-ish short story, but well worth the read.

  2. I think that’s an issue of the work passing into public domain, Drum.

    Intellectual Property Law is a pretty big deal in law schools.

  3. Drum

    I’m not at all arguing that patents or copyrights be perpetual. Even ownership & enjoyment of physical private property is not forever.

    I disagree with Sheldon’s premise that intellectual property does not or should not even exist.

  4. that right should not outlast said creator.

    Um, IMHO it should last for a limited time afterwards … say somewhere between 10 to 20 years.

    I don’t want to encourage assassination of very popular artists.

  5. You should have just copied the entire article and changed the author name to Edward Von Piratepants.

    It’s not like the guy thinks he owns that pattern of words or anything.

  6. I don’t want to encourage assassination of very popular artists.

    Well, I can think of a few famous people who would make the world better by appearing as the guest of honor at an interment.

    And if Sheldon really thinks that way, under what leap of logic does he claim a paycheck for his own efforts?

  7. even if his ideas had merit

    for failmerica to unilaterally abolish patents would drive its paltry remaining tribe of innovators and inventors and writers overseas to where they could profit from their endeavours more better

  8. patents *and copyright* I mean

  9. overseas to where they could profit from their endeavours more better – See more at: http://proteinwisdom.com/?p=52431#comment-1050156

    Like in China. Where they fined Apple for copyright violations. Whereupon the judges left the building listening to their iPuds. (No typo.)

  10. speaking of the Chinese

    In essence, the concepts of plagarism and counterfeiting cease to exist if all products are public property.

    How nice.

  11. You should have just copied the entire article and changed the author name to Edward Von Piratepants.

    I was going to say Richard Stallman. From whose bong this author was clearly smoking…

  12. Two words for libertarians: Reardon Steel.

    Dude’s a looter in sheep’s clothing. Away with him.

  13. Wow. I have the top two of three spots in this Insty thread.

    This is the advantage to commenting late at night, before the East Coast wakes up.

  14. I’m not sure this Richman fellow is intellectually dishonest, Darleen.

    He’s merely carrying his Ideology [Libertarianism] to it’s logical ends. And every Ideology ends in Tyranny and, at the same time, stupidity, because they all are systems of ideas devised in the sterile laboratories of the mind, far away from Reality.

  15. You deserve those top spots, Di – very well argued.

  16. I gave you some thumbs up, di.

  17. Much grass.

    Although it’s not hard to rebut the arguments those morons were making.

  18. You have more patience than I. Sometimes I just want to slap the scales from their eyes.

  19. He’s merely carrying his Ideology [Libertarianism] to it’s logical ends.

    How does libertarianism lead to a dislike of intellectual property rights?

    How is a copyright different from a deed to a plot of land? Both are issued by the gubmint, both limit what other people can do with/to your property, and both are obtained by the sweat of your own brow, either directly or by labor tokens.

    Any Rand was pretty explicit that those who wanted Hank Reardon to “share” his formula for Reardon Steel were looters.

    Rand was wrong about some things, but her understanding of the looter mentality isn’t one of them.

  20. Sometimes I just want to slap the scales from their eyes.

    Can’t be done.

    Best provide rhetorical ammo for the onlookers so that they have something to say, something to stand on, instead of being persuaded by the sophists.

  21. The sophists are everywhere aren’t they? Them and the sloppy thinkers, they are legion.

  22. Di, I’ll have a response for you sometime tomorrow, as other duties call this evening.

  23. How is a copyright different from a deed to a plot of land?

    The deed of land can be passed down from one generation to the next, and to the next, and the next, etc….

    Copyrights cannot, even if they can survive the death of the original copyright holder for a few years. (The land equivalent would be a 99-year lease.)

  24. Drum

    The deed of land can be passed down from one generation to the next, and to the next, and the next, etc….

    However, the heir(s) have to put in their own efforts, time, money etc to maintain that property. Gershwin’s or Rockwell’s heirs would just have to hold onto the copyright. They don’t have to contribute any of their own efforts to the already created art.

  25. there needs to be a new class of copyright what is held in perpetuity for so Mauschwitz can stop perverting real copyright just cause they don’t want their fucking faggot rodent to fall into public domain

  26. you’ll never hear the crack

    of a frown when you are here

  27. Richman is just as intellectually dishonest in this paragraphy; he conflates ideas, which are not eligible for patents or copyrights, with tangible, physical creations.

    Ever heard of a software patent? Pure evil, but non-tangible.

  28. “Sometimes I just want to slap the scales from their eyes. ”

    The problem is that some eyes have no desire to be scale free. For some folks a movie like ‘Nude Nuns with Big Guns’ is a wacky, ironic, nostalgic “grindhouse’ revival novelty sick joke to have guilty fun with.

    For others it is virtually a manifesto and a persuasive parable about the human condition humorously told only to better reach the masses. There are people who seriously want to believe that the Catholic church uses bikers to run coke, heroin and whores (in the human trafficking slavery sense) and that everyone EVERYONE in the church is a criminal scum bag or a victim of one. And wouldn’t it be nice if one of those victims (who was gay) picked up some guns and started offing priests and bikers and burn down the church and the convent and the titty bar? Oh, and the 70′s exploitation racial stuff is either naighty-delicious or intentionally shameful to make a statement.

    The reality is that it is typical SHOWTIME crap.

    But some people want a different reality where it means something.

    Those people want the scales on their eyes and will use super-glue to make sure they stay on. They have a hate to feed and images of old priests counting wads of hundred dollar bills while saying “Praise the Lord” is revolutionarily true and reality is the lackey of the pigs and running dogs that keep the people down.

    Ask adiossellameestaban who thinks Obamacare keeps people from fighting over lungs in the street and that welfare keeps mass starvation at bay and that Republicans are trying to put Florida underwater when they doubt the veracity of absurd climate scare “news”stories. They think life is an exploitation grindhouse movie with them as the heroes. They don’t and won’t see the inherent and extreme ridiculousness of their positions, assertions, and assumptions. They don’t see the corny irony. They see sincerity and honesty only slightly magnified so that lesser minds can see it.

  29. I work for an intellectual property law firm and I have heard a lot of dumb ideas from people in the silicon valley who don’t get it.

  30. Peeps I work with file patents for their innovations.

    You mess wit ma peeps, I mess witchu.

  31. - As a physicist/Engineer and long time patent holder I can tell you that the capitalism that does exist, as against the phony articulations in this writers approach outlined well by Darleen, is the forced “usage” practice that corporations excersize over the actual patent holders.

    - Corporations cannot hold patents, they must be filed in the name of an individual, who it is assumed is the legitimate inventor/artist. The problem is there are an endless number of ways to “capture” the patents use by the corporations to the detriment of the patent holder and public, a problem that insures the steady growth of unionism, and one that still has never been addressed legally. There are those that believe this situation is intentional and by design from a business standpoint, similar to the insider problems that beset the stock market and never seem to get resolved for some reason.

  32. They think life is an exploitation grindhouse movie with them as the heroes. They don’t and won’t see the inherent and extreme ridiculousness of their positions, assertions, and assumptions. They don’t see the corny irony. They see sincerity and honesty only slightly magnified so that lesser minds can see it.

    - Not to quibble too much with your assertions I would submit that as conforting as it might be to just chalk the Progs up as a gaggle of nitwits wallering in their own self generated “pretend world”, and willful ignorance they ate not that stupid.

    - What they see is political opportunity where none existed before the skewing of the narrative, ignoring the realities, and reordering of the language.

    - They see opportunity, not truth or the lack of it. There is no benefit in reality.

  33. If I recall correctly a similar situation exists with copyright and the record company and musician/bands in a recording contract: The artist is treated as an employee, despite the fact that they aren’t really being paid as one, and the record company ends up with most of the rights (and money) for the music.

    This is why everyone in the music industry tours, and why the only way to really support the musicians is to buy tickets to their concerts.

  34. My memory of a copyright class is that the recording artists are treated more like clients and all costs come out of the artists share of the profits of record sales. Yes, concerts are the money makers for the artists.

    It is also profitable to write your own music since you get the publishing rights. The record company (usually) only get rights on the recording of the music.

  35. The only way an artist loses rights to his or her songs is if he signs those rights over. The master recording almost always remains the property of the record company, even though the artist must pay for all recording costs before getting any residuals.

    However, the songwriters always get paid, while the artist sometimes gets jack squat.

    The model is pretty much dead anyway, and that’s probably a good thing.

  36. Dicentra wrote last night at 7:10 P.M.: How does libertarianism lead to a dislike of intellectual property rights? in response to my remark:

    [Richman’s] merely carrying his Ideology [Libertarianism] to it’s logical ends. And every Ideology ends in Tyranny and, at the same time, stupidity, because they all are systems of ideas devised in the sterile laboratories of the mind, far away from Reality.

    If you will notice, I capitalized the word ‘Libertarian’ in my comment. That is because I believe there are two types: Libertarian [Ideologue] and libertarian [non-Ideologue].

    Let me explain my uses…

    -The former follow a system of ideas designed in the sterile laboratories of their own minds. Like all Ideologies, theirs cannot allow for any deviation from the belief system because the whole thing will collapse if any part is proven defective. And they have so much psychologically invested in their Ideology that it’s collapse would bring about a breakdown. Jacob Burckhardt called them ‘the terrible simplifiers’.

    -I’ll let Russell Kirk explain the small ‘l’ ones:

    …a number of the men and women who accept the label “libertarian” are not actually ideological libertarians at all, but simply conservatives under another name. These are people who perceive in the growth of the monolithic state, especially during the past half century, a grim menace to ordered liberty; and of course they are quite right. They wish to emphasize their attachment to personal and civic freedom by employing this 20th century word derived from liberty. With them I have little quarrel — except that by so denominating themselves, they seem to countenance a crowd of political fantastics who “license they mean, when they cry liberty.

    Onward to answering Di…

    Ideology is a trap, a trap of Logic.

    You are bound to the next logical step because every step is dependent on the previous and next steps. The Ideologues’s carefully constructed system, developed in the sterile laboratories of their minds, is pristine, precious, and fragile. It cannot survive any disturbance to it’s ‘thought field’, as it were.

    The Ideologue’s definition of a thing must narrow as time goes along because the definition is dependent on that fragile chain of logic, developed in the playpen of the mind, not based on human experience. As the chain of logic is applied to more complex situations, situations that before were considered under the same umbrella of protection must be discarded because they don’t exactly follow the pristine path of Logic. So it is not surprising that Libertarians like Richman find themselves advocating for a narrow definition of what property actually is and, therefore, what should be protected is accordingly decreased in size and scope. This eventually leads to absurdity and the destruction of the meaning of the word itself, of property itself, as well.

    Richman is trapped; he has no wiggle room. His premises determine what he must believe. Ironically for him in this case, he cannot creatively apply his system of ideas.

    Logic is THE god for the Ideologue. If he does not accept this new overlord, his system will crumble.

    _
    Kirk quote from: http://www.heritage.org/research/lecture/a-dispassionate-assessment-of-libertarians

  37. Logic is THE god for the Ideologue.

    And because logic is useful only when the underlying assumptions on which it’s based are valid, logic can lead you off the cliff as readily as fantasy.

    “Information wants to be free” must be the flag they’re flying. It’s verging close to schizophrenic logic wherein taking pills makes me sick because I only take pills when I’m sick.

  38. Completely OT, but please welcome our new great-granddaughter, Vivey Eve…

    http://i.imgur.com/f403IcJ.jpg

    (Adopted, so it was kind of a surprise, even though the process wasn’t. No details on actual DOB, weight, and other details yet, but we’re still texting each other…)

  39. Congrats, Gramps!

  40. I was already a good grandfather (seven grandkids — the man in the pic is the eldest), now I’m a great one! *w00t*

  41. It’s about time they recognized how great you are, eh?

  42. Congratulations, DW.

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